Monday, 28 February 2011

Women on board, The 30 by 15 challenge.

You may or may not be aware that Lord Davis published his review into women in the board room last Thursday.
Though the report was across all sectors as always we shall be looking at this with our construction hat on, it’s true that construction needs more women at board level, that’s my opinion of course but I did form it after reading a shed load of research so I consider it an informed one.

I have never been able to get over the correlation between the challenges identified by both Egan and Latham and the changes that occur when increasing the number of women in the workplace especially at board level. That and the tiny fact that more than 30%  female representation on boards increases profit and productivity (Catyalyst), significantly too, 42% higher return on sales, 66% higher return on invested capital, 53% higher return on equality (Mckinsey and company 2007)

And whilst I still hear from companies that they cannot find the right women, women don’t  put themselves forward and women don’t have the skills, women keep telling me that they don’t get offered the opportunities, cant see how they would fit on an all male board and are held back from gaining the required skills.

It looks to me that somewhere in all of this we have gotten ourselves into a right muddle. Of course there are solutions, but we feel there is also huge opportunity for industry. If we worked as a whole to not just take up the challenge set by Lord Davis to achieve 25% representation by 2015 but to try and beat it by making construction the first industry to achieve 30% this would not only bring the business benefits of a well represented board to organizations but raise industry profile and show a move away from the outdated stereotype of construction as a man’s world.

It’s a lot to ask but I think we could do it; after all we manage to navigate PQQ’s, client expectations and framework requirements. This should be a walk in the park right?

If you decide to adopt the challenge let us know so we can let everyone else know, and for those with a budget for these things why not find out more about our balanced board program to help you on your way, for those without read our top five tips.

1.      We promote in our own image because we usually think our views are right. Oh don’t get me wrong some are less vocal about it (not everyone has time to write a blog) and others do try and seek new knowledge to ensure fully rounded opinions, but on the whole we like the people that agree with us. We shouldn’t think this is a conscious decision either, it’s usually not and unless we are aware of this and have been trained in how to realize when it is happening it’s likely that we will continue to repeat the same patterns and consider different viewpoints as weak when making appointments. To move forward ensure your boards and recruiters are aware of the right agendas when undergoing the recruitment process.
2.      Whilst the pot isn’t currently over flowing, at the moment there are women looking to take the step to board level, especially if we get in first and find them. Many are in your own companies, it’s just that something has gotten in the way be that confidence, workplace barriers, caring responsibilities etc. With the right systems in place you can find and up skill these women. What’s more it’s very likely that the confidence boost will have a knock on effect to their performance in their day to day jobs too.
3.      When looking for Non executive candidates its worth examining your contacts, and looking to see how diverse they are. With the majority of appointments never advertised women often don’t get a look in due to the male centric experience that is construction networking. I would urge you to expand your networks, not only to other sectors that have a stronger representation of women at senior level but also to consider the huge number of talented individuals who could not achieve their goals within a traditional construction firm and have started up on their own, you only need to look to the recent presidents of ICE, IstrutE and RIBA to see my point.
4.      Research has found that when there are less than 3 women on a board they are still likely to be considered tokens, often by themselves as well as their fellow board members. This is regardless of how they got there quota/no quota. Only once 3 women have been appointed will numbers outweigh the tokenism issue and you can start to see real change happen.
5.      Appoint what you need to, not who you want. Look at the areas your board currently lacks if you have 12 Senior directors will another bring anything fresh to the table? Might there be some benefit in bringing in some one at middle management or even operational level to gain a more rounded view of the company? Please note if you chose to do this individuals should undergo an appropriate period of training to ensure they are able to deal with boardroom situations.

I look forward to hearing from those of you brave enough to undertake my challenge!

Happy Building

Chrissi x